There is no problem between members of the two major religious groups in Nigeria, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto in the West African nation has said in reference to Christians and Muslims.
Speaking on TVC News Breakfast show on Monday, September 5, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah attributed the challenges in Nigeria to “irresponsible leaders” who use religion as a tool of oppression rather than for liberation.
“There is no problem between Christians and Muslims,” Bishop Kukah said, and added, “There is a problem between irresponsible leaders who don’t want to govern properly; irresponsible Christian religious leaders who have now seen religion as a tool of oppression instead of a tool for liberation.”
“This has been the thrust of my argument, because these are two areas of study. With all sense of modesty, I have spent a good part of my life studying theology and studying religion and society,” the Local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese said.
Bishop Kukah who was responding to questions on the role of religion and ethnicity in the politics of Nigeria said the leadership of Africa’s most populous nation had failed in governance and nation building.
The Catholic Church leader used the analogy of soccer to explain governance failure in Nigeria.
He narrated, “If you are watching a football match or any game at all, that’s why there are referees. If the referee does not do what needs to be done and allows supporters to jump onto the field, you can see for yourself that referees are punishing coaches who overreach themselves by stepping even if it is just one inch, into the field. They are punished; sometimes they are taken off the pitch.”
“Now, this is really what a state is supposed to be. Because without the state, it will be all of us against each other. And that is why the state is called a leviathan. You put so much power so that the state can protect us,” Bishop Kukah said.
He continued, “The Nigerian state has proved itself to be incompetent, grossly malfunctioning, unable, and unwilling to commit the welfare of citizens as the principal basis of governance.”
Bishop Kukah who turned 70 on August 31 said that citizens must carry a “Nigeria land” mentality, which presupposes the knowledge of shared interests.
“The Nigerian system was only about politics, and not science,” he added.
Bishop Kukah went on to express the need for a country where the “rule of law was placed over religious or ethnic sentiments.”
Under the current regime, “Nigeria operated as a democracy, not a theocratic government,” he said, and added, “The role of religion must be scientifically defined. The lack of definition emboldened leaders to privilege a religion or ethnic group over another.”
“The constitution guarantees us freedom of religion and freedom to decide what we don’t want. Religion is an association. I’m free to opt out of an association,” Bishop Kukah, who has been at the helm of Sokoto Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in September 2011 said.